Milk cart, No. 262, full-size, horse-drawn, made by The Dairy Farmers' Co-operative Milk Co. Ltd, 700 Harris Street, Ultimo, New South Wales, Australia, 1920-1930, used by The Dairy Farmers' Co-operative Milk Co. Ltd, 700 Harris Street, Ultimo, New South Wales, Australia, c.1910
This milk cart, No. 262, is symbolic of the hundreds used by the Sydney milk distribution company, The Dairy Farmers' Co-operative Milk Co. Ltd, to distribute bulk milk to households. The cart was built in abourt 1910 by Dairy Farmers' themselves in their coach building factory at the firm's head office at 700 Harris Street, Ultimo. A large transport building was erected on the site in 1933-1934 and by 1935 the firm was changing over from the horse-drawn fleet to motorised vans. Motor vehicles were becoming more popular at this time so the company was unable to sell 120 of their beautiful carts and wagons and burnt them instead.
Great pride was taken in the construction and decoration of this milk cart. It is understood that Dairy Farmers' built this cart for display purposes exclusively and for over 25 years it won about 100 prizes at Sydney's Royal Easter Show up to the 1950s. The show cart is actually quite different from a standard milk cart. The wrought iron work is much more highly detailed especially around the driver's seat. A standard cart would have had minimal iron rails which were probably have been straight bars. The timer work is also very sculptural whereas a standard cart would have had straight cut boards.
It is thought that this cart would not have been used for milk delivery but permanently garaged and just before the Royal Easter Show would have been taken out, revarnished and overhauled by master tradesmen. The cart's main competitor at the Show would have been the Fresh Food and Ice Co. This milk cart was presented to the Museum by Dairy Farmers' in 1960.
From the 1970s milk has been purchased in cartons and bottles from the dairy cabinets of supermarkets. Before that, milk was delivered to homes daily in glass bottles by milkmen in milk trucks. Even before that, during the early decades of the twentieth century, bulk milk was delivered in horse-drawn milk carts (dairy carts) like this one. The milk was held in either 30 or 40 gallon stainless-steel tanks inside the cart or 10 gallon milk cans strapped into the carts. The 'milko' measured out the required amount of milk for each customer and put it into their jug or billy, which would be left out for the milkman the night before.
Horses drawing milk carts developed a great relationship with the milkmen. They learnt to walk from house-to-house themselves and stood patiently while the milk was delivered. After glass bottles were introduced in Sydney from 1925, four-wheel horse-drawn wagons were fitted with crates for the bottles. The wagon wheels had pneumatic tyres and horses' shoes made of composition rubber lessened noise for the early morning deliveries. Horse-drawn milk, bread and meat deliveries continued in many places into the 1950s and 1960s because it was more cost effective and deliveries were faster than with motorised vans.
"Dairy Farmers' Â? Progress of a great co-operative enterprise". Produced to mark 60th anniversary of The Dairy Farmers' Co-operative Milk Co. Ltd, 1960.
Stringer, Michael, "Australian Horse Drawn Vehicles", Rigby, Sydney, 1980, pp.104-121.
Watney, M. & S., "Horse Power", Hamlyn, Sydney, 1975, pp.39-40.
Information provided by Glen Denholm.
Curator, Science, Technology & Industry
The milk cart was made, probably in about 1910 by The Dairy Farmers' Milk Co-operative Ltd which had been established in 1900 at Albion Park, NSW, by 70 dairy farmers from the South Coast. The cart is thought to have been used both as as delivery cart for bulk milk and as a "show cart" for use as an exhibit at Sydney's Royal Easter Show at which it was awarded about 100 prizes until the 1950s. When the cart was built, the firm was one of Sydney's largest milk distribution companies and during the 1930s and 1940s it expanded into Newcastle, Wollongong, Canberra, Goulburn and Bathurst. By 1960 the company operated 34 depots.
Both two-wheel milk carts and four-wheel milk wagons were built by Dairy Farmers' in their own coach building shop at the firm's head office at 700 Harris Street, Ultimo, in Sydney, on the site of the ABC's (Australian Broadcasting Corporation's) Ultimo Centre. The vehicles were not only designed and built by Dairy Farmers' but they also made horse-drawn vehicles for other firms. Milk carts took up to a month to build. They were constructed of natural timbers and varnished. All the metal work on the carts was hand forged and nickel plated.
The cart is fitted with two stainless-steel milk tanks or vats made by the Sydney dairy supply company, Malleys Ltd, of McEvoy Street, Alexandria.
The horses favoured to pull Dairy Farmers' carts and wagons were three-quarter draught horses, purchased at horse auctions in Homebush, Bathurst or Maitland. They were stabled at the Harris Street site and also kept in a large holding area at Darlington where they were sometimes bred and prepared for exhibit at Sydney's Royal Easter Show.
This milk cart is believed to have been used soley as a show cart by Dairy Farmers' Co-operative Milk Co. Ltd. The company was a very successful competitor at the Royal Easter Show and a great deal of care and attention was lavished on the horses and vehicles that were used as show turnouts. Dairy Farmers' milk carts were displayed at the Show from 1922 to 1960. They were exhibited in a section called 'Business Turnouts, Waggons and Lorries', which was divided into various classes. Dairy Farmers' entered their carts in three classes: One horse delivery cart turnout; Pony delivery cart turnout, (pony not to exceed 14.2 hands); and Turnout for advertising businesses.
In these classes the carts vied with other carts of produce manufacturers for what was known as the "Special Prize" with prize money amounting to 3 pounds for first place and 1 pound for second place. The money was not the real prize but the prestige of winning was considered the real bounty in terms of publicity for the winners. In the early years of this competition prize money was put up by Dairy Farmers' themselves, through the General Manager, Mr H. Fryer.
It is thought that this cart came from the Dairy Farmers' Willoughby Depot in Sydney and was driven exclusively by George Taylor who was the company's horse breaker.